NDDC inquiry revelations condemnable, not representative of South-South culture ― South-South Study Group

The South-South Study Group (3SG), a think-tank made up of likeminded professionals representative of the diverse South-South region, has described as deplorable the revelations emanating from the NDDC probe, adding that such are not peculiarly representative of the South-South culture but a condemnable and emblematic national culture where unscrupulous individuals apparently see government institutions as fair game for plunder

The group which spoke from Port Harcourt through Otoks Dan-Princewill, stated that as a body that finds it imperative to express the strong feelings of the region regarding the revelations from the recent legislative inquiry into the affairs of the NDDC, the present scenario of affairs is not only deplorable but “the reality is that whatever resources the NDDC receives, however large, may never be sufficient to address the needs of the Region if the funds are misappropriated.

According to 3SG, some political groups have developed the act of looting the national wealth into a system of privilege reserved only for their families, ethnic or geopolitical kith and kin and the NDDC like most national agencies are seeming caricatures of the national culture of disdain for public accountability.

The group stated that as stakeholders and supposed beneficiaries, the Niger Delta remains undaunted by the on-going setbacks and continue to hope that the Federal Government will overcome the challenge and be able to ensure that monies voted to the NDDC is channelled responsibly to benefit the communities of the Niger Delta Area, asking whether revenues should continue to be collected by politicians and disbursed as they deem fit under law or should there should be legal provisions for the oil-bearing communities to be directly involved in the process?

3SG reiterated that the Niger Delta deserves equity, fairness and justice and asked that the Federal Government ensure that all revenue accruing to the NDDC be judiciously and equitably channelled to benefit the people directly. And there should be consequences for abuse by Federal Government appointed functionaries.

“It is most unfortunate that this cry for justice by the Niger Delta dates as far back as the Henry Wilkin Commission of 1958. 62 years later, all we hear is egregious, rambunctious and uncontrollably exuberant bad behaviour by Federal Government appointees. It is needful to establish this fully. NDDC was established as a Federal Government agency for the singular purpose of developing the oil-rich Niger Delta that continues to provide the lifeline for the Federal Republic of Nigeria while suffering the devastation of environmental degradation and to provide palliatives to the oil-bearing communities.

“The Law, an enactment of the National Assembly clearly spells out the functions and powers of the NDDC, including but not limited to the formulation of policies and guidelines, and the conception, planning and implementation of projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta Area.  It is pertinent to reiterate at this point that the NDDC remains a Federal Government agency under the management and control of the president,” the group said.

According to 3SG, the group will not be distracted by current events and will remain focused in its duty to highlight key issues which can motivate a turnaround for those genuinely intending to ensure the development of the geopolitical zone in order to bolster the capacity of the NDDC to meet its mandate and service delivery expectations to the suffering people from the neglected and devastated region.

“We the people of the South-South region hereby call on the Federal Government upon which the final accountability for all the NDDC appointees rests, to account for the full amount of statutory funds due to the NDDC since its inception, including actual allocated funds and those to date unpaid.  By 2009, it was published in public records that the Federal Government owed the NDDC over N308bn as unremitted statutory due to the Commission. Many credible sources insist that if the fund statutorily due to the NDDC is compared with the actual funding made by the Federal Government and purportedly received by the NDDC, a wide embarrassing gap in trillions of Naira owed to the NDDC will be found.

“The current shameful revelations in the NDDC serves to reinforce the position of the South-South that the over-centralisation of governance in a Federal Government has failed the nation and in particular the people of the South-South. While the NDDC has failed to significantly impact the Region with development from the resources already provided it, the Federal Government has also failed to provide the enabling environment to make such development possible by failing to provide adequate security, stable and regular power supply, functional Ports and connecting rail lines to name just a few.

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“Moreover, the control mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency by the NDDC and other government entities are non-existent as illustrated by the current events. Since the Federal Government appoints all the key actors heading and managing the NDDC without reference to the people of the region and without transparency whatsoever, the failure of the NDDC rests solely on its shoulders for which it must singlehandedly take responsibility,” 3SG said.

The group reiterated that the obvious failures are further supported and amplified by the gross social injustice and administrative asymmetries that characterize governance in the deliberately distorted federalism system practised in Nigeria, adding that Nigeria must be one of the few democracies with a segmented society comprising very diverse nationalities, that has a constitution created by narrow internal and external interests which imposes a unitary institutional imprimatur of a warped Exclusive List upon a so-called federal union of diverse federating units.

3SG said while the South-South Geopolitical zone had always demanded resource control as envisaged and largely practised after the Lancaster House Agreement was enacted, years of erosion of this right by several governments have stripped the oil and gas host communities of their derivation rights.

“Yet, despite recent initiatives to lift this economic ‘chokehold’ by encouraging the initiative of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, the insensitive asymmetries persist, and the modular refineries were stalled. To this extent, it is clear to objective observers that the much distorted Exclusive List is operated with regional bias, wherein Federal authorities cherry-pick what suits their regional agenda. The South-South, therefore, sees the NDDC revelations for what they truly represent: a bad sign of a dangerous disease, the ‘disease of failed Federalism’, in a manner of speaking.

“If the Federal Government wants the NDDC to work for the development of the geopolitical zone as envisioned, it will create mechanisms that widely seek and obtain the genuine inputs of the beneficiary communities in what their development priorities are and institute an Ombudsman system to complement the oversight in the execution of such priorities. However, no paternalistic efforts will be superior to a situation where the people determine how their resources are disbursed and used, and how their Region is developed by the “proceeds under proper Federal systems. If the South-South States have jurisdiction over their resources as agreed in and practised after the Lancaster Agreement before military adventurists imposed distorted federalism on Nigeria, it may well be that some states or a Joint Commission of the South-South States will be better served by a Regional Sovereign Wealth Fund with its appointed Fund Managers to periodically prioritize specific strategic projects that will best impact its development objectives using acclaimed global governance standards and best practice,” it said.

 

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